The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Chelsea defeat Wrexham 5-0 in first-ever international soccer match at Kenan Stadium

07192023_LCrochik_chelseawrexham.jpg
Chelsea winger Ian Maatsen (38) celebrating after a goal with his teammate during the Chelsea versus Wrexham match in Kenan Memorial Stadium on Wednesday, July 19, 2023.

In the first-ever international soccer game at Kenan Memorial Stadium — which 50,596 fans attended — Chelsea handled Wrexham 5-0 on Wednesday night.

Wrexham opened the game on the attack and pressing with a high back line. However, Mauricio Pochettino's Chelsea made quick work on the counter attack, and opening the scoring with a left footed from Ian Maatsen that made it past Wrexham keeper Ben Foster just three minutes into the game.

Wrexham had an opportunity to go forward, but Chelsea was able to clear it and avoid danger. Wrexham had another chance with a cross into the box a few minutes later, which was cleared before Elliot Lee attempted a bicycle kick from the left side of the box that went wide. Chelsea then had a chance of their own, but a pass to the right side of the box just slid past the foot of Maatsen. 

Paul Mullin won Wrexham their second corner of the night, but Tom O'Connor's cross sailed past the far post. Chelsea then commanded the ball, keeping hold of possession in the back and working to pick apart the Wrexham defense — something that Wrexham head coach Phil Parkinson expected to happen before the game.

On a long throw-in, Wrexham had another chance but the header was put just wide of the post. Chelsea, however, continued to dominate possession, giving Wrexham few chances going forward. The Blues broke through again in the 42nd minute, with Maatsen burying his second of the night off of a one-two with Carney Chukwuemeka to give Chelsea a 2-0 lead heading into halftime.

"It's good to have the opportunity to see what these guys, young guys, that can show the quality that we talked (about) before," Pochettino said. "I think it's important for them and for us to have a real assessment."  

Both Wrexham and Chelsea made changes following the halftime break, with Raheem Sterling and Christopher Nkunku coming on for the Blues.

The second half started out physical and with Wrexham looking to create chances when they could. A wave of substitutions around the 60 minute mark saw six fresh Wrexham players take the pitch. 

"First of all, the physical element of it, I thought we worked very hard," Parkinson said. "And we had to because Chelsea have got so many technical players." 

Ben Chilwell earned Chelsea a free kick in a dangerous area outside the box, but Nkunku was unable to get on the end of it before Sterling's chance missed wide. Chelsea's continued high press and good use of possession limited Wrexham's chances going forward as the second half drew on. 

Wrexham were able to breakdown the Chelsea defense with a through ball that found the center of the box but were unable to finish it off. Just seconds later on the other end of the pitch, Sterling put a header over the crossbar.

After earning a corner kick late in the second half, a perfect cross into the center of the box was saved by Chelsea keeper Lucas Bergstrom. Wrexham continued to apply pressure, but a cross into the box was easily handled by Bergstrom.

Chelsea then worked quickly down the field finding Sterling on the left side, who then cut across the top of the box and found Conor Gallagher whose strike from outside the box found the bottom left corner, giving the Blues a 3-0 lead. 

Wrexham broke away on a counter attack late in the second half, but Marc Cucurella was able to thwart the chance and concede a corner. Just moments later, Cesare Casadei found Nkunku in behind the Wrexham defense, who then dribble around the keeper before slotting it home to extend the lead to four and net his first goal in a Chelsea shirt.

In added time, Chelsea added another just before the final whistle as Chilwell scored after a perfectly placed through ball by Angelo Gabriel.

"I thought we had chances, we just weren't clinical enough in that final third which we're normally good at," Parkinson said. "But that will come and it just showed the differences in levels."

Both Wrexham and Chelsea will continue their U.S. tours later this week, as Chelsea travel to Philadelphia and Wrexham will head to Los Angeles. During the remainder of the preseason each manager will continue to assess their respective squads. 

"I am happy, we will see what happens in the next few weeks," Pochettino said. "When we come back to England we will decide the future of these young players that maybe have a future here."

@mdmaynard74

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.